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Google Sketchup

I'm sorry my Dad didn't live long enough to see Sketchup (free 3D modeling for Windows and Mac). That it exists wouldn't have particularly surprised him, but that it is free and can run on consumer class hardware surely would have. He would have simply loved this, as he was always designing and building.

His father would have loved it even more. He was a an engineer who designed things like bridges and certainly would have put something like this to good use.

And even I, who inherited none of their engineering talents, am fascinated by Sketchup.

I suggest that you run through the video tutorials even if you don't want to install this - they might change your mind. By the way, although the stated requirements call for a PowerPC G4, it runs perfectly smoothly on my Intel MacBook.

I was partucularly impressed by the interface. This is extraordinarily easy to use - very intuitive and the use of color to show planar orientation and when you are at mid or endpoints helps tremendously. Even a klutz like me actually could do decent 3D drawing and modeling with Sketchup - and if you had ever seen me struggle with other drawing apps, you'd be amazed too.

You can insert your Sketchup models into Google Earth. So, for example, you could model your house and plop it down at its proper location in Google Earth. As you can import photos and "paint" them across a model as texture, this can end up being quite realistic.

Of course you can also export to jpg files. Here's a silly example.

Available for Windows or Mac OS X. There's also a $495.00 professional version that adds more features.

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